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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hershey's Kisses Candy Cane Swirl Cheesecake and the Beauty of Cream Cheese

I love trying out new recipes, but it seems I'm always trying out new recipes.  It seems wherever I go, I am always bringing something new and untested.  Whenever I bring a dessert to any gathering, I also bring along some disclaimers and apologies, like "Warning, everybody: I tried a new recipe, so I have no idea how this cake will taste" or "I'm sorry these cookies turned out a little dry--I was testing a new mixing method."  This past weekend I brought a cheesecake recipe I have never tried before to my brother's Christmas party, and due to the magic of cream cheese, it was delicious.  No disclaimers.  No apologies.

As you may know I have a weakness for all things Hershey and so as soon as I saw this lovely cheesecake on the Hershey website, I knew it would show up at some gathering this holiday season.  I love Hershey kisses and although the Candy Cane Hershey Kisses are cute and tasty, they really don't hold a candle the original milk chocolate Kisses.  But, just add a little cream cheese... and voila! You have an irresistible dessert!

Cream cheese has that kind of effect on just about any food, any time of day.  Put cream cheese on your English muffin instead of butter and it's a highly satisfying breakfast.  Add a little cream cheese to your sandwich instead of mayo, and yum!  Spread a little cream cheese on a Wheat Thin, and you have a delightful little snack.  Mix a little cream cheese into your mashed potatoes and your guests will all be asking for your mashed potato secret.  Mix any cookie or fruit into cream cheese and bake it over a cookie crust and you have a rich, delectable dessert.  

Cream cheese truly is a magic food and if you are a fan of peppermint desserts, you can't pass this up.  In fact, even if you don't really like peppermint desserts, this one may change your mind.  I love cheesecake and this one turned out wonderfully rich and perfectly sweet.  Bring this one to your Christmas dinner and you'll be a cheesecake hero!

The two little adaptations I made were the topping and the mixing of the candy cane swirl into the cheesecake.  If you were to follow the directions on the Hershey website, the swirl would show up mainly on top on the cheesecake and not all throughout (unlike the picture on website--I can't figure out how they did that--It almost looks like there are whole kisses in the cheesecake).  So I altered the mixing instructions and was pleased with the result.  As for the topping, instead of placing whole Candy Cane Kisses on top of the cheese cake, I chopped them up and sprinkled them in a circle on the cake.   Also, be sure to use vanilla wafers for the crust--it was wonderful!

Here is my adapted recipe:

Hershey's Kisses Candy Cane Swirl Cheese Cake

Crust Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs (Hershey's Kitchens say about 45 cookies, but I say it takes a few more than that)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted

Cheesecake ingredients:

3 packages of cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
42 Hershey's Candy Cane Kisses, divided
1 Tablespoon milk

Instructions for Cookie Crumb Crust:

Heat oven to 350.  Stir together cookie crumbs and sugar.  Blend in melted butter.  Press crust mixture onto bottom and 1/2 inch up side of 9-inch springform pan. Bake 8 minutes.  Cool.

Instructions for Cheesecake:

Heat oven to 350.

Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in large bowl until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Set aside.

Remove wrappers from candies. Place 30 candies and milk in medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at MEDIUM (50%) 1 minute; stir. If necessary, microwave at MEDIUM 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, until candies are melted and mixture is well blended when stirred. Blend 1/4 cup cheesecake batter into candy mixture.  Pour half of remaining cheesecake batter onto cooled crust.  Drizzle half of the candy cane mixture on top that that.  Add remaining cheesecake batter.  Drizzle remaining candy cane mixture.  Gently swirl the cheesecake batter and candy cane mixture together with the blade of a knife for a marbled effect. 

Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until center is almost set. Remove from oven to wire rack. With knife, loosen cake from side of pan.  While cheesecake is cooling chop up remaining 12 Candy Cane Kisses.  When cheesecake is still slightly warm, sprinkle chopped up Kisses around the outside edge.  The warmth from the cake will melt them on.  When cheesecake is cool, remove sides of pan. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Peppermint Bark Brownies and a Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

I made you some Peppermint Bark Brownies--I hope you like them!  They're yummy and easy to make--a perfect Christmas dessert!  I'll give you the recipe in case you or Mrs. Claus want to make them.  

Want to hear something funny?  When my dad was a kid, he never really believed in you.  You see, they didn't have a chimney in their house, and so at Christmastime my grandfather would put a big piece of cardboard onto the wall with a fireplace painted on it.  That's where they would hang their stockings, and that's where he said Santa would come into the house to deliver the presents.  My dad found this a little a dubious and never really bought it.  

I, on the other hand, always believed in you.  Even though I also found the chimney thing a little hard to believe (I mean, if you're supposed to be so fat, how are you going to fit down someone's chimney?  Besides, you'd get your nice red suit all dirty at the first house.) I figured if you have elves and flying reindeer you're not going to have any trouble finding a magical way to get into people's houses.  What I always wanted to know was how do you manage to slow down time to get to every kid's house on the same night?  But I knew you were real. I never doubted it.  (Except that time the neighbor kid told me there was no Santa, but what does he know?  His No-Santa theory was full of holes, anyway.  I mean, who eats the cookies the kids leave out if there's no Santa?)  Thank you for the notes you always left for me every Christmas telling me how good I was and to always listen to my parents. (Did you know your hand-writing looks a lot like my Dad's?)

I remember driving home from Grandma's house every Christmas Eve looking frantically out the window scanning the sky for the red glow of Rudolph's nose, and listening for sleigh bells.  My dad or one of my big brothers would sometimes spot you saying, "Look!  There he is! I see him!"  I would lean towards the window trying desperately to see, but before I could catch a glimpse of your famed reindeer-drawn sleigh, I would always hear a disappointed, "Aw, you missed him.  He's gone.  But he was up there all right!"

Anyway, my Christmas list this year has some really easy items on it, like a heat-resistant spatula set and a small cookie scoop.  There are some long shots on there like a new car and a better paying job. And although, I'm pretty positive that on Christmas morning I'm not going to see a new car in the driveway or a terrific job offer letter under the tree, why take chances on not asking?  And there are some nearly impossible requests on my list, but since I want them with all my heart, I couldn't leave them off, like for my family to all live in the same city and for my Grandma to not have Alzheimer's anymore.  I'd give anything to hear her funny advice or to make Chrusciki with her.  Although I enjoy and appreciate your presents every year, it has always really been family that makes Christmas special.  As it should be.

Fly safe, Santa!


PS.  Here's that recipe:

Peppermint Bark Brownies

Your favorite brownie recipe or a package of your favorite brownie mix
2 cups white chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
12 candy canes

Start off by making a 9 x 13 pan of your favorite brownies.  

While the brownies are cooling unwrap the candy canes and put them in a ziplock bag.  Using a rolling pin or a meat mallet, crush the candy canes into little pieces.

After the brownies are cool, melt the white chocolate chips together with oil in a heat safe bowl over a pot of boiling water, stirring gently.  When completely smooth, spread melted chocolate over brownies.  Sprinkle candy cane bits over the white chocolate.  (I like to press the larger bits gently into the melted chocolate, because they have a tendency to pop off when the chocolate is cool.)  Let cool completely before serving (about a couple hours).  I recommend cutting the brownies before the chocolate is completely cool while it is still a little soft and has some give to it.  Otherwise, the white chocolate will crack while you are trying to cut it.  

Enjoy!  God Bless and Merry Christmas!